Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reminiscing Living in Europe

Hi all,

The time finally came.  Roughly seven weeks after my having moved back to the USA from living abroad in Europe over the last four years, I have stumbled and fallen smack dab in the middle of really missing it.  Deeply.  My heart strings tugging longingly toward the free spirited, magic, carefree sense I felt over the span of my time across the pond.  Finding myself waxing nostalgic about all the awesome adventures I embarked on.  Longing to sit across from my close friends like we used to many times a week over tea or go walking through the city together, shoulders brushing as we turn toward one another, talking and laughing.  Chatting about anything and everything.  Being able to actually put my arms around and hug them.  Look at them physically in person.  Sit next to them.  I am both picturing and missing the favorite cafes (Sugar Mama ;-)) frequented over my time living there, both with friends over tea and cake, as well as solo with pen scribbling across pages and pages over the span of several hours. 

I'm finding myself lamenting the ease with which I could hop on a train and be in an entirely different country within just a couple hours time.  The winding, steely gray canals of Amsterdam, lined with upright gingerbread cookie canal houses.  The tinkling of bicycle bells in the wind.  Boats meandering along the narrow, watery ways.  Billows of smoke pouring out coffee shop doorways upon their opening and closing.  The class, history, ornate architecture and romance of Paris.  The Eiffel Tower sparkling come dusk.  Eclairs.  The medieval magic of Prague Castle, akin to how I imagine it might be standing in front of Hogwarts if I were to enter the world of Harry Potter.  The whole city like something of a dark fairy tale.  Cottages, green expanses of park, the enigmatic Charles Bridge with its towering statues lining the way. 

The electric energy of Portugal and that oh-so-delish Pao de Deus bread, a totally life changing sweet sampling.  Traveling, corkscrew style by bus, around the inclining tip of a mountain to Sintra, a stunning, small village tucked into the edges of this mountain top, offering sweeping views of Portugal laid out below and around, 360 degrees.  Romancing over the dark, mysterious, haunting atmosphere of Edinburgh, feeling bewitched by the gray chill and creepiness of the city, the mountainous landscape and largely soot covered buildings.  Walking side by side with Judith, laughing, talking, meeting two random dudes (one in our hostel, the other when out and about in the city) and heading out with them into the city that evening for a night of glitz and silliness ;-p

Hosting dinner parties in Frankfurt, my tiny kitchen crowded with friends.  Whipping up a nearly overwhelming lineup of food come each weekend morning, followed by a frenzied photo shoot, all for my food blog.  Then boxing all of it up and bringing along to my meetings with friends later on that afternoon.  Heading to the gym with Amy, where we would hop on side by side elliptical machines and chat, the minutes turning into an hour or more.  Taking Hot Iron classes, Kettlebell courses, Yoga and more, relishing my daily workout routine with her there next to me.  Friday Night Lights at Melissa and Davors.  Ordering food, talking for hours about all sorts of engaging, interesting topics.  Taking walks down the bustling Berger Strasse.  And eventually making our way into watching some Friday Night Lights, followed by much debate and analysis on the characters morals and choices.  

I could go on and on, but I wont.  Instead, a photo montage of favorite moments and memories feels more fitting.

Beginning with Prague, where I lived for the first few months of my time in Europe during autumn of 2013.  This is where I set forth obtaining my TEFL certificate.  What ended up being my foot in the door to the next four years spent in Europe.

First Czech dish sampling.  Gnocchi with pork, sauerkraut and some other ingredients of which I'm not totally sure.  I was stunned to find it homey and delicious.

I could not get over how cheap Prague was.  This haul costing me maybe the equivalent of 12 bucks.

What the corner of your closet sized, temporary digs look like after packing your entire life into four bags and hauling them overseas.

Adventuring to the real deal Oktoberfest in Munich.  Absolutely nuts.  To read the full experience and see loads more photos, click here for the blog entry.

Baking nights with Greg.  Making pumpkin bread from scratch, even going so far as to roast a whole pumpkin and scoop out its inwards to use in the bread.  Hands down, one of the best pumpkin breads Ive ever tasted though.

And the bread below, an authentic German recipe called something like "midnight bread."  My first foray into the world of yeast experimentation.  Though the yeast was something of a fail, the bread still tasted delicious.

More Prague during autumn...gorgeous.

And now, moving on to Germany.  The initial reason for which I moved there, a total mistake.  But ending up there in general over the big picture?  An awesome, magnificent life chapter that was absolutely meant to have/needed to happen.

The Christmas market in Frankfurt.  Awesome.

The tiny village I lived in for my first few months, Reinheim.

And the next six photos, the neighborhood in Frankfurt where I spent hours of time babysitting three Parisian children in the afternoons.  Gabriel, Theodore and Constance.  Loved them <3 and hanging out at their place.  Frequently went over early before the kids were home and, with the place to myself, went nuts on their grand piano.  Awesome.

I babysat these guys for a few weeks until learning that in fact, I would need an official job in order to potentially secure a visa.  I was informed of this mere weeks prior to my 90 day tourist visa expiring in Germany, which would have meant packing my bags and going back home, tail between my legs.  Not an option.  So I hit the ground running and walked my resume all over the city every morning, several doors being slammed in my face, until getting a job two weeks later.  Exactly one week shy of my visa expiring.

Gabriel, Theodore and Constance.

So.  Upon ending my tenure with watching those three, I began working for Kids Camp as their English teacher to the on-the-cusp of Kindergarteners.  The photos below are a smattering from that experience.

Homemade materials for a lesson on teaching vocabulary for emotions.  This culminating in their coming to the white board and having to draw their own faces, relay race style, displaying whatever emotion I threw out.

Philipp <3.  Yeah, you aren't supposed to have favorites.  I did.

First night out clubbing with Judith.  And the beginning of one of the best friendships of my life.

After a necessary breakup (though it took me months past its ending to see this fully) which changed my life drastically for the better, I scrambled and found an apartment in Frankfurt.  The above photo and following three, my neighborhood for the next three years of living in Germany.

Becca, a good friend/connection formed during my time in Prague, came to visit me in Frankfurt :-D so much fun!

Judith and I on a field trip with the kids.  Working with one of your best friends, doesn't get much better than this ;-)

Our flier for the formation of our meetup group, Sweet Meets.  Several hundred would-be members applied!  SO cool.  We did this bi-weekly over the course of the next year.  Lots of fun, happening meetings, a few totally awkward and hilarious ones which we laughed about for long afterward, a few meaningful friendships formed, and just a totally unique, worthwhile experience.

Julius, Philipps brother.  These two <3.  I grew so close to these two and their family, going over to their place bi-weekly for almost a year to both speak English and play with both of them.

Routine Christmas card writing each year in one of my favorite cafes.

Traditional meetings in Iimori, a favorite for their green tea torte cake, my god.  Delicious.

Cake on the Main River, another favorite tradition.

Teaching Dali Mille Bornes over coffee and tea ;-) such fun.

Summer street festivals :-D

Dana <3.  Having English lessons together once a week after school in a cute little café.  And hammin it up in between ;-)

This photo and the following 30th birthday celebration(s).  The best :-D

Rudesheim am Rhine (the above photo and two below), one of the more picturesque cities just an hour or so from Frankfurt.

Jenn and Steve coming to visit me in Frankfurt!!!  Man, was this a total blast :-D spent nearly four days together, both in Frankfurt and training it around Germany.

Meghan, a friend from back when I worked at the Danish Pastry House, stopping through Frankfurt.  Had a fabulous day together wandering.

Annnnnnd...on Halloween weekend, rather fitting, road tripping it to various castles throughout Germany with Andy.  This was the bomb.  For the full trip experience, all our photos and the travel stories from this weekend, click here for the full blog entry.

Devouring Bienenstich (aka "bee sting" cake is the translation) at the base of a castle.  Only the best German cake ever.

The next smattering of photos...Budapest.  One of my favorite trips ever, though I say this about several of them ;-)

For the full blog entries on this adventure, chock full of travel stories, food recommendation and loads of photos, click this link.

"Good girls go to heaven.  Bad girls go to Budapest." ;-p

Thanksgiving dinner party.  Not only was this the first solo dinner party I ever hosted but it ended up being one of the best :-)

For the stories and funny moments from this night, click here for the short and sweet blog entry.

The next several photos are from venturing to both Heidelberg with Judith and then Freiburg with Travis during Christmas time.

And, my first trip home to the US after 2.5 years of living in Germany.  I loved every second of this trip.  What an awesome whirlwind of reconnecting with people I love and had missed deeply.

Sisters <3

Brother and sister <3

With Alex.  Catching up over cupcakes and margaritas, what better pairing than that.

Sarah and Kyles wedding <3

And....back to Germany.  Explorations of Limburg and then Berlin...

Quite possibly the best breakfast of my life, and in the coolest of locales.  For some major food porn of Roamers, here's my review of the restaurant.

Possibly the coolest building Ive seen in my life (Berlin).

Onto skiing the Swiss Alps with my mom, and then venturing to Portugal and Spain together.  One of the most amazing trips of my life, though for me the spotlight was on skiing the Alps.  Mind blowing.

For the full blog entry of our skiing experience, click here.

For the photos and stories of Spain, here is the blog entry.

And to check out our time in Lisbon, here you go.

Then, closely following my moms departure, Alex and Dan came over for a visit.  We spent a day in Heidelberg and then their other day in Germany tooling around Frankfurt.  Though short and sweet, the visit was stellar.

For full details and loads of photos, here is the blog entry.

Onto Amsterdam for 4 days.  Not realizing that this was soon to be one of my favorite cities prior to this trip.  I like many carried the connotations of Amsterdam that it was a city generally living in a cloud of pot smoke and prostitutes.  How wrong and narrow minded of me.  This city is incredible.  Atmospheric.  Laid back.  Romantic.  Breezy.  SUCH fun.  I should have lived here.  Maybe I still will.

For blog entry, Part One of this trip, click here.

Visiting Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.  Only in bloom 6 weeks of the year.  One of the most colorful places on earth.  People come from all over the world to see these :-).  Loved.

My friend, Amira and her boyfriend, Alex happened to be in Amsterdam the same weekend that we were (my friend, Travis and me).  So we met for dinner at Jackson Dubois, a way cool, street food, small plate concept restaurant.

With Amira in Amsterdam :-)

Picnicking in the park with Bhakti :-D

This photo and the one below it, taken during my 4 day overnight trip with my fourth grade class.  I had dreaded this leading up to it.  Four days, attached at the hip, with my fourth grade class.  Granted, I loved them, but no down time.  No time to myself.  Not being home in my own place.  Just...ugh.  Ended up LOVING it.  Wow.  Playing cards and board games with the kids.  Getting caught in the rain.  Grilling food.  Playing games.  Helping the girls get ready for their first dance- so cute.

My sister, Lexie ventured over to Europe during July, 2017.  We went to Berlin and Paris together :-).  The following few photos from that trip.

Right after my sister left, mere days later, it was off to Scotland with Judith.  This might, if forced to choose a #1, have been my very favorite trip taken with a friend during my four years in Europe.

You can read and see here the full blog entry that's part one of our time in Edinburgh.

And here for part two.

My god, LOVING the architecture of Edinburgh.

And last trip of that summer (yes, summer of 2016 was an insane whirlwind, not to mention a bomb to my wallet, but well worth it as I knew it was likely my last summer of living over there), a solo trip for one week to Stockholm, Sweden.

Catching a boatride to one of the outermost islands of Sweden, called Sandhamn.  This is the moment my heart decided on moving back to New England.  Swelling with nostalgia and nearly forgetting that I was in Europe as opposed to back home.

To read about and see loads of photos of my experience in Sandhamn, here you go.

Stockholm Library, a must see.  You cant tell from these photos but the inside is awesome.  Cylindrical and domed, its totally unique and eye catching.  Somehow, I was able to finagle my way into getting a library card for one week.  Then, proceeded in  stopping by here every morning before making my way into the city.

Coolest café in Sweden.  Or at least, the coolest I found ;-).  Spent several hours here reading and writing.  And trying not to cry each time I received the bill for the cost of one tea. ;-p

Upon returning from my hurricane of summer happenings, this is when I began delving deeper into food photography and recipe experimentation.  A couple months later, launching Sweet. Raw. Free.  Loaded with recipes falling into the categories of gluten/grain free, dairy free, sugar free, raw, and Paleo.

Then, come October, 2016, I booked what would be my last solo trip while living in Europe to the French Riviera.  A place at the top of my bucket list for years, for a few reasons.  At this point, I could feel the whispering in my heart quickly becoming a shout with regards to moving home.  Though terrified of making the leap, and not fully sure why as much about life in Europe is far superior to life in the US, I was confused and afraid of making the wrong choice.  But as my heart had been edging me in this direction for months and months by this point, despite being nervous, I knew I would soon be biting the bullet- though I kept quiet about it to my friends, not wanting to disclose anything until a decision had been made.

So I booked a trip here, knowing it was a place I needed to see and that time was running out.  The next several photos are from St. Paul de Vence, Eze and Villefranche Sur Mer, all along the French Riviera.

To see photos of St. Paul de Vence and read about that magical experience, here you go.

Eze, a medieval, Game of Thrones esque village sitting on the top of a mountain...for photos and the full scoop on that one, here is the blog entry.

And finally, Villefranche, the one I had been dying to see the most for both the scenery/atmosphere and some majorly awesome musical history.  Read and see more here.

Food photo shoots with Dali :-D one of the best friends ever.

To check out our photo shoot in the small market hall in Frankfurt, here is the full spread.

Dali too is a travel blogger.  And an outstanding writer/photographer.  To check out his adventures, here is the link to his blog!

Walking the Red Light district in Hamburg, one of the biggest in Europe (see two photos below- not sure how I managed snagging these).  This street specifically forbidden to women.  However, we decided on slipping around the foreboding, huge wood planked wall, first walking quickly, glancing this way and that, which gave way within seconds to running upon receipt of numerous glares and yelling jeers from several of the women hanging out their red bathed windows while men on the street turned to look, the two of us sprinting the remaining length of street with racing hearts.  And after slipping out the other side, collapsing in a fit of giggles.

Despite Germany being freezing, much to my shock, it never snows there!  This was one of four (yes, count it, four) snowfalls I experienced in the entire four years I spent living there.  My street...stunning in the snow isn't it?  I was swooning.

Dali and his Harry Potter themed birthday :-D

Lisa <3

Day trip to Bamberg with Bhakti, so much fun!!!

Whoa, I was not expecting this explosion of flavors and textures when innocently grabbing a green tea cinnamon roll from Iimori, one of my favorite Frankfurt spots.  Filled with sweet cream, green tea AND red bean paste, oh man.  Yowza!

Weekly tradition at Sugar Mama :-D

Lisa again :-D man, did I love the sweet surprise of friendship that developed between us in my last 8 months ish of living in Germany.  First, colleague.  Then upon seeing "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" together, the rest is history ;-).  Loads of brunches followed.  Dinner parties.  Tea and cake.  Long conversations.  Explorations of Frankfurt.  All just the best.

And her parting gift to me upon my moving away took my breath away.  She handed me a bag filled with teas, each one from one of my favorite cafes in Frankfurt!!!  I was stunned into speechlessness by how personal, thoughtful and how much effort she put into this gift.  Ill never forget it.  Lisa <3.

Yup.  I bit the bullet and got a tattoo.  Crazy.  Terrifying.  So not me haha, the whole time a running script scrolling through my mind of, what on earth are you doing!!???!

For the full story on that is the blog entry.

And then, Dali and Ricardas wedding <3.  This was an emotionally moving, memorable day to be sure.  

Just before giving my speech....god, was I shaking.

Walking into the wedding, soaked with rain, flustered, but so happy to see my friend.

Lenka <3.  This little girl, oh man.  One of my students my first year at Phorms.  Once she graduated, exchanging contact information with her mom.  Then over the next year, Lenka and I going out for tea and cake, playing cards and spending time together once a month or so.  The two of us growing rather close.  This was a deeply touching, stunning surprise.

Melissa.  Another unexpected, awesome friendship surprise.  I am learning quickly though that in life, its just as often the things you expected least, the complete surprises that can end up being the most awesome additions to ones life.

In my last 1.5/2 years in Frankfurt, the two of us growing quite close.  As well as my becoming friends with Davor, her husband, and becoming close with their son, Vanja.  These three.  Very special to me.  I miss them deeply.

Funny, Melissa and I were colleagues at my second job in Germany.  Though I thought she seemed nice, I never gave much thought to us becoming friends past work.  During my last week of work at Fintosch, she asked if I might like to grab coffee sometime.  I wasn't sure how well we might click or not, but said yes.  What a great decision that was, wow.  I've been richly rewarded with her friendship and the connection that has grown between us ever since.

Davor and Melissa.

Davor and their son, Vanja.

My little guy, Vanja <3

And, some photos from my last weeks in Frankfurt.  Counting down to the big move back to the USA, one way.

Amy.  Another awesome friendship that developed in the last 6/7 months of my time in Germany.  Colleagues who found ourselves thrown together working a holiday camp over Christmas, we totally hit it off.  Talking all day literally the entire time.  Then, we started hanging out.  The rest is history.  She joined my gym so we went there together a couple times a week.  Our conversations were always engaging, interesting, open, varied and fun.  I have loved getting to know this warm, intelligent, wonderful woman.  I have no doubt we would have become very close friends, had we continued living close for a while longer.

After a fabulous birthday picnic with two of my best friends in Frankfurt :-D god, I loved this.  Awesome morning with Judith and Melissa.  One week prior to my moving back to the US.  My heart was growing heavy at the prospect of leaving these two, which was shortly impending.

And, the following several photos, last trip of my tenure in Europe.  Four days in Italy with Judith.  Two days in Florence and two days in Siena.  Judith never having been to either one of these cities, myself never having been to Siena but Florence being the first European city I ever spent time in via studying abroad.  One could argue, the match that lit the fire leading to all of this.  So it seemed a fitting place to conclude my time in Europe with.

To see photos from my experience of studying abroad in Florence, back at age 21 in 2008, here is the link to that nostalgic post of that time in my life.

Doing some writing in the gorgeous Piazza Signoria while Judith went off to check out a monument.

She insisted on taking this photo of me eating my ice cream.  "Typical," she laughed.

And, that's all she wrote.  At least for now ;-).  The end of this awe inspiring, life changing, heart rending, growth inducing period of my life.  All of the above merely a scratching of the surface, a tasting menu, if you will, of the life I experienced over there.

And the last blog entry I wrote before heading off...

Life is a Series of Leavings.